Chacano, man who allegedly tried to shoot up courtroom, pleads not guiltyHETTINGER — Vicente Erasno Chacano calmly pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of attempted murder during a preliminary hearing at the Adams County Courthouse on Thursday afternoon.
HETTINGER — Vicente Erasno Chacano calmly pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of attempted murder during a preliminary hearing at the Adams County Courthouse on Thursday afternoon.
He is accused of trying to shoot jurors, Adams County Sheriff Gene Molbert and prosecutor Jonathan Byers in February after a jury found him guilty of molesting a young girl in Adams County.
Chacano’s attorney, Robert Quick, asked Judge Steven McCullough to dismiss six of the 14 counts, but McCullough found enough evidence to find probable cause to move forward with all counts.
Chacano, a native of Chile, does not speak English fluently and must use an interpreter.
Byers testified Thursday the incident occurred as the judge was discharging the jury. Byers said he then heard
“When I heard the clicking I turned to see what it was and it was the defendant, Mr. Chacano, pointing a handgun at my chest and attempting to discharge,” Byers said. “He had a look on his face like he was confused why it wasn’t firing.”
He said Chacano tried about three times to fire at him, two to three times at the jury, once at Molbert, and then tried to fire at Byers two more times.
Why the gun did not fire has not been determined, said Pat Helfrich, Bureau of Criminal Investigations special agent.
Jurors and others in the courtroom told Helfrich they either dropped to the ground or were pulled to the ground by others when Chacano tried to fire, he said.
Byers tackled Chacano and Molbert assisted in subduing him, Byers said.
A juror picked Chacano’s gun up and put it on the witness stand Helfrich said. Chacano had a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and three clips holding 38 bullets, Helfrich said.
Chacano told Helfrich he doesn’t remember trying to shoot anybody.
“He said at that time he just went blank and he doesn’t remember anything other than having the gun and being subdued,” Helfrich said.
Helfrich said Chacano also told him he only took the gun into the courtroom the day he is accused of trying to fire it, not through the entire trial.
Quick argued since some witnesses stated about half of the jurors “were out” when Chacano began trying to fire, half of the attempted murder charges should be dismissed.
“There’s been no testimony, there’s been no evidence to support that as stated in their complaint, your honor, that Mr. Chacano specifically, intentionally or knowingly tried to cause their death by attempting to shoot them with a semiautomatic handgun,” Quick said.
Prosecuting attorneys Jackson Lofgren and Brian Grosinger said such evidence was presented.
Byers and Molbert said they did not believe any of the jurors had left the courtroom.
“A number of them had had a chance to get out of the jury box,” Byers said. “I think it’s unlikely that they actually got out the door because it was a very short time after he had excused them.”
Molbert said some jurors likely made it out of the jury box, but not out of the courtroom.
After Thursday’s hearing, Chacano’s friend, Karen Hedstrom, said she was upset.
“He’s not a child molester,” she said. “He was convicted on absolutely no evidence.”
Court records list Chacano’s address as Killdeer, but he is serving a 40-year sentence for the gross sexual imposition convictions.
He is appealing those convictions, according to court records.
Hedstrom declined comment on the attempted murder charges. Quick, Lofgren and Grosinger declined comment.